London Should Be One Fare Zone, Says Green Party

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 28 months ago
London Should Be One Fare Zone, Says Green Party

How's this for revolutionary thinking: the Green Party is proposing abolishing fare zones across London, for one flat fare, wherever you want to travel.

At the moment, someone living in zone 6 pays £844 more a year to travel into the centre of London than someone living in zone 3 — assuming that person can afford the initial outlay for an annual travelcard. (If you pay monthly the difference rises to £972 a year.) The Greens, and mayoral candidate Sian Berry, think that's not fair, particularly given that the housing crisis is increasingly pushing the low paid into outer London. So they want to level the playing field.

The plan would be implemented in stages. In 2017, zone 4 would merge with zone 3, and zone 6 with zone 5, creating a four zone structure with fares based on the lower rate. Over the next eight years, outer London fares would be held down as inner London fares rise to meet them. By around 2025, the party believes it would be able to make London one fare zone.

They also propose a ticket that lets you interchange between all types of transport for one hour, abolishing the problem of getting charged every time you switch between the tube, train or bus. A one hour bus ticket is possible within a year, they say; a full system ticket would take longer. The Greens also propose daily Pay As You Go caps of one-twentieth the price of a monthly travelcard, so part-time workers aren't penalised. And in a move that makes a lot of sense, they would want to make paying with Oyster and contactless possible on all forms of transport — including cycle hire, taxis, river boats and car clubs.

What of the cost? The Greens calculate that the changes would reduce Transport for London's fares revenue by 10% by 2025. We've already scoffed at Sadiq Khan's plans to freeze fares on the basis that TfL is losing millions from its annual government grant. However, where Labour will only say they'll find the money through "efficiency savings" (very woolly), the Greens have come up with a series of proposals to meet the funding gap:

  • demand for a share of the new Road Fund and a share of fuel duty
  • increase the Congestion Charge (and also make the system smarter so it rewards people who drive outside busy times)
  • a levy on workplace parking spaces
  • revised Ultra Low Emission Zone.

In effect, they plan to shift some of the burden from fare payers (currently 40% of TfL's income) to car users (Congestion Charge accounts for less than 3% of TfL's income).

Zones have been abolished before, of course, on buses in 2004. The question is: will inner London — typically where Greens are strongest — go for this change? The party says everyone will benefit from the one hour ticket, but say they want to concentrate fare reductions where the need is greatest. Sian Berry said:

A Green Mayor and Assembly Members will help level the playing field and make transport fairer and more equal for Londoners. It’s not fair that you have to pay more to change onto the tube from the national rail services that people in south London rely upon, or that if you need to take two buses to work you have to pay twice for your journey.

And it's not fair that people who work part time pay more per day to get to work than people with full-time jobs. It's not fair that people in outer London pay so much more to get to work in the centre of the city — especially as it's also easier for people in the centre of town to use even cheaper or free alternatives such as hire bikes, cycling or walking.

Last Updated 05 January 2016

Continued below.

Geoff Marshall

i first discovered the 'time limit - any transport mode' ticket in Rome over 10 years ago, where you bought a ticket and had 1h 15m to travel on any bus, train, tram you wanted.. etc. I thought it was a great idea then and still think it's a great idea now. Considering the mess we've now got with Zone 2/3 around Stratford, anything that de-zones or similfies the fare structure is worth trying.


Yep, same in Barcelona. One zone covers the urban area with a 1hr 15min time limit. They even have income based tickets. They are currently introducing a card for 14-16 year olds that provides 50% discount or free transport, if they are from a low income household.

Fred Cracklin

tons of cities already have this. london is by far among the world's worst in terms of cost and logic re: fares. and why not charge advertisers more? i'm sure nike and jack daniel's could afford it.

Jon Millwood

I think fewer zones is a good idea, but scrapping entirely might push overall fares too high. But merging zones 2-5 or similar would work. Keep zone one and reward people with a cheap fare if you don't enter Z1.

San Francisco had a 90 minute interchange on their Oyster-style tickets which worked very well when we needed to get multiple buses. Even if it is only on buses a 1hr interchange would be very welcome.

Paul Corfield

So just to be clear we are talking about fares in Zones 1 and 2 rising considerably so the flat fare becomes something like £3.50. A one stop journey in Zone 1 rises over 50% to part fund cheaper fares further out. What happens to transport demand in the inner area with fares at this level? If usage plummets then revenues fall too and road congestion most likely increases. Reducing the scale of inner area public transport usage through such high fares also undermines the basis for further transport investment on much of the network. There are a lot of linkages here which I don't think the fares policy recognises.

The document is also silent about bus fares from what I can see. The concept of "one ticket" implies one fare so if the tube has gone to a flat fare of £3.50 do bus fares do the same? That means more than doubling bus fares in less than a decade. Not even Boris Johnson has managed that. I'm also not very sure that the revenue loss numbers they quote for the "one hour bus ticket" are right. They are quoting £35m gross, £30m net of trip generation but previous Mayor's Answers on this topic have quoted £50m-£70m depending on the level of discount / fare level.

The other crucial aspect that I can't see explained is the revenue impact on Train Company franchises. Every time the Mayor has adjusted fares that has reduced TOC revenues TfL has had to pay a compensating sum. The scale of reductions envisaged is huge and tens, possibly hundreds, of millions of pounds will have to be found from somewhere to maintain TOC revenues as envisaged in their franchise contracts with the DfT. The Green Party has zero ability to get rail franchises scrapped so this is a material issue for their funding assumptions. Lowering fares in London will also create "step change" impacts on fares at the zone boundary and DfT has forced TfL and the Mayor to adopt a policy, as seen with TfL Rail and West Anglia devolution, that prevents "cliff edge" increases in fares as you move outside the zonal area. The document also does not discuss fare levels in Zones 7, 8 or 9 so people in Bucks, Herts, Essex and Dartford may face issues about their fare levels. They may get a reduction or they may face disproportionate increases - hard to say.

I note also the assumed revenue grab from national road taxes, a wider ULEZ, a workplace parking levy and enhanced congestion charging scheme. They are all fraught with problems even if desirable from the Green Party's position. Again they can't secure a share of national road tax revenues themselves - they need the government to co-operate which I can't see happening. There is also a possible underlying error in the assumptions that fares rise by RPI+1% in London. I thought the Government had changed this to RPI for rail fares and I can't see TfL being allowed to diverge from that (regardless of who is Mayor).

The document also does not acknowledge the possible impact on service volume. *if* demand increases there will be pressure on capacity in some places. This will cause increases in operating costs once any surplus capacity has been used up. May be OK off peak but peak times is a serious issue already at existing fare levels. If you load up services further out where's the space for people coming in from Zones 3 and inwards?

On the face of it the "headline message" is attractive but I don't think this can work as the costs are underestimated. It would also need three Mayoral terms to achieve it and I can't see any Mayor ever lasting three terms in London.


I would definitely have the 'all modes' single ticket, but I would also have zonal fares, just with fewer zones. This is what I'd have:
Short journey ticket (only valid for 20 minutes, can not be used to change from one service to another)- £1,70
single tickets- all can be used to change from one route to another)
1 zone: £2,20- valid for 90 minutes
2 zones: £2,40 valid for 100 minutes
3 zones: £2,60 valid for 110 minutes
4 zones: £2,80, valid for 120 minutes
5 zones: £3,00, valid for 140 minutes (only services in zones 7, 8 and 9 and the special fares zones)

For the zones, I'd keep zone 1, merge zones 2 and 3, merge zones 4 and 5, keep zone 6, and then merge zones 7, 8 and 9 and the special fares zones.

When I've been on holiday to the continent, I've had to validate my ticket in a machine close to the doors, and then I've been able to use it for a certain amount of time and change from one route to another, and in Milan, I had to buy my ticket from a local newsagent-type place, but for this system, I'd rather have it so it's possible to buy your ticket from the driver, just with a surcharge of £0,20, and then you'd have to validate it by putting it in a machine that then reads a magnetic strip on the ticket, which on buses would be on-board the vehicles and on the tram, tube, overground, train, Air Line, River Bus and DLR, would be at the stations and piers,which is similar to the system in Warsaw and Milan. The tickets themselves should probably be the same dimensions as LU paper tickets, since all of LU's ticket barriers take those dimensions, and it would be stupid to change it all to a new size.

I'd also have return tickets, which would cost 1 1/2 the fare for a single ticket, and a system whereby 16-25 year olds can get child rate tickets, as long as they show ID to prove their age, to try and get them to use public transport more often.

For Oyster, I'd have a tap-on, tap-off system on all modes, and a system whereby if you tap off on one reader and tap on on another within 20 minutes, it doesn't start a new journey.

Steve Bolter

So those who have chosen to help the environment, by living closer to work (or working closer to home) to cut down on travel, even if it means higher housing costs or lower salary, will have to subsidise those who have chosen a longer commute, from lower cost housing to higher paid jobs.
Those with families who can only afford to live outside London and pay to commute in by mainline train, will have to pay as much, just for a couple of stops on the tube to their workplace, as the rich coming in from their mansions on the north downs will pay for the entire journey from Knockholt or Epson Downs to the West End or City.
Very fair ??

Greg Tingey

A "One-Hour" (or even 90 minutes ) fare is a good idea & feasible.
As for the rest - forget it - how will this be paid for?
It's even further past Upney than Khan's supposed "idea" of freezing bus fares.


I'm not being facetious or provocative, but merely suggesting this idea: why don't we scrap fares altogether? In doing so we save money by not having any of the associated costs with monitoring fare evasion, gathering fares and administering fares. No maintenance of fare gathering systems from the ticket gates though computer systems and the whole Oyster system. No need to worry about touching in here, touching out there. Staffing levels can be cut (controversial, but this is just an idea) too. More people will travel by public transport as it's free - meaning more overcrowding but if you're not paying for it, may be something we'd accept. As more travel by public transport, roads are clearer and those that have to deliver etc get there faster and more efficiently. So businesses pay a higher tax/rates to compensate. Less pressure on wages as a major cost is cut gives a bigger benefit to the lower paid. Of course, lots of reasons it wouldn't work...


Well the greens stand no chance of getting in, so they can spout as many mad pie-in-the-sky ideas as they like, cos, thank god, they'll never be given the chance to implement any of them outside of their Brighton experiment, and look at the mess they've made of things there!